Rougemont, N.C. — More than 70 years after a girl and a job got in the way of Dillard Griffin's degree, the Durham County man will take part in the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's commencement this weekend.
Griffin, 92, enrolled at UNC in 1934 and was on track to graduate four years later. Fate then intervened and led him in another direction.
"In my senior year, I met a beautiful girl that stole my heart," he said. "We went dancing, and that was all she wrote."
Spending time in Burlington courting the girl left him little time to finish a term paper in his final class, he said.
"I just never got around to doing it," he said.
Griffin wound up marrying the girl – he and his wife were together for 47 years – and he decided to take a job in his father's Durham shoe store instead of finishing his degree.
"I had other things going on that seemed more important at the time," he said.
Griffin never told his children that he hadn't graduated, even as he put them through college. When his daughter learned his secret last year, she enrolled him in a correspondence course.
Because he's legally blind, he had his coursework projected onto a screen to make it large enough for him to read. He said he got three A's and two B's on his assignments.
When he picks up his business degree on Sunday, he plans to wear a T-shirt under his cap and gown declaring him 1938 class president of the UNC Procrastinators' Club.
"I think education is very important," he said. "Finally, it feels like an accomplishment, and now I can tell people I'm a graduate of the University of North Carolina."